Breastfeeding: Why I Did It For As Long As I Did

Why I Breastfed Two Children for Over 3 Years
Image adapted via FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ Jomphong

“You're still breastfeeding?”

“I don't know how you do it!”

“Don't you think he's a little too old to be nursing?”

“Don't you want some freedom?”

These are some of the things that have been said to me by well-meaning friends and family when they found out I was breastfeeding my oldest until he was 18 months and my second for 22 months. I understand that it is difficult for people who have never breastfed (for example, men or women who do not have children) to comprehend why one would willingly nurse for longer than a few months or a year.

I am not a crunchy mama. I do not claim to subscribe to theory or practices of attachment parenting, though I have co-slept, worn my baby around my body, and breastfed exclusively for an extended period of time. All that I've done with both my children does not come from a place of belief in any one parenting style. It comes from a simple philosophy that I apply to all aspects of my life: I do the best that I can within circumstances (or within parenting) that I am given. 

{ MORE: Weaning Your Toddler from Extended Breastfeeding }

My firstborn was very good at nursing. He latched with no problems, and I had no milk-supply issues. It just happened as naturally and simply as one could wish for. He rejected the bottle outright and repeatedly. A lot of pumped milk was wasted because he hated bottle-feeding. I tried different bottle nipples, different places in the house, various family members tried feeding him in my stead—every attempt failed. Even starting solids at 6 months did not deter his enthusiasm for breastfeeding. To my son, breast was indeed best. 

Ironically, weaning him at 18 months was a more painful process for me than him, both emotionally and physically. I'd long given up the hope that he would both breast and bottle feed. I decided to go with the flow and let him take the lead in weaning. He did not. I had to make a decision when our co-sleeping and breastfeeding (these two things did go hand in hand with us, especially in the middle of the night) resulted in him waking up every 90 minutes, and me, barely surviving on tiny pockets of sleep, nothing more than an hour at a time for months on end. The decision to wean him and move him to his own bed had to happen simultaneously. Within a week, he had stopped nursing and was sleeping through the night on his own. The relief of sleep was palpable for both of us. 

My second child loved breastfeeding, too, though he slept in his crib. For him, it was the emotional and physical attachment. He came to me (and my boobs) for comfort when he was upset. When you're 1, that happens a lot. He was walking, talking, and running by 18 months. He was eating well, and he was sleeping through the night, yet he still wanted to nurse. It was of nutritional value mostly to his soul. How could I say no? But I had to when he was nearly 2. His dependence was bordering on unreasonable, because by then, he was able to regulate his emotions better—he didn't really need my breasts to comfort him. I could hold him, talk to him, and hug him to make him feel better. He knew that, and I did, too. Thus began a three-day weaning process that saw tantrums of epic proportions on day one, negotiations on day two, and a totally calm day the next. We were done. He was done.

I got my boobs back. 

So why did I breastfeed for so long? Because it was necessary for us, easier for me, and because we could. I do not wish that time away.   

{ MORE: Is It Safe To Breastfeed Someone Else's Baby? }

How long did you breastfeed for?

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Breastfeeding: Why I Did It For As Long As I Did

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, she traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison is a former blogger (Writing, Wishing), and her writing has been featured on Mamalode,On Parenting at The Washington Post,The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, andDrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists ... More

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11 comments

  1. Profile photo of stephanie stephanie says:

    I breastfed 4 kids. 36 mos (finally had to cut her off), 12 mos (self weaned), 18 mos (cut off) and 24 mos. (cut off)

  2. Profile photo of Elfie Elfie says:

    My son (17 months) is a BOOB MONSTER!!! He knows he can’t nurse in public but AS SOON as we get home, he starts screaming until he nurses. We have started to cut it back. Instead of 5pm he nurses at 7pm. (We work at 7:30am so he inky really nurses at night. ) I was hoping he would self wean but it doesn’t seem like that will ever happen. Also we co-sleep and I just leave it out so he can get it when he wants at night. I’m thinking we will be weaning soon. Any advice?

  3. Profile photo of Britney Britney says:

    I breastfed my first for only 6 months. My supply dried up due to medication I needed to take at that point and my son weaned himself. I’m hoping to go a full 2 years with my current baby, who is just under 4 weeks. He had a really tough time in the beginning, unlike my first who was a champion nurser. I’m getting fixed in a few weeks so this is my last baby, so I plan to enjoy every sleepless night.

  4. Profile photo of Kristin Kristin says:

    I say it’s nobody’s business how long you breastfeed. 🙂 I think it’s wonderful that you did what you thought was best for your boys, and it worked for you all. My son weaned himself at 10 months… a little earlier than I had planned, but at least I didn’t have to go through a tough weaning period.

  5. Profile photo of Leigh Leigh says:

    Nursing the big girls was a struggle with their prematurity, but Zoe came out ready to eat right away! And the big girls practically weaned themselves at a little over a year (which was kind of a relief), but Zoe didn’t wean until I went on a 5 day trip, when she was 18 months old. It was bittersweet. I was ready to have my body back, but knowing she was my last baby, I wasn’t really in any hurry.

    • Profile photo of Alison LeeAuthor Alison Lee says:

      I totally understand the last baby thing – I thought #2 was going to be my last (for a while), so I let it go on for as long as it did. But once I was pregnant and he was still nursing, yup it was time to say enough!

  6. Profile photo of cassie cassie says:

    I love this post! There is nothing wrong with extended breastfeeding. I breastfeed my second child for a year and a month and only called it quits the first time she tried to pull my boobie out of my shirt. She could already eat solid foods, drink juice and had no problem, during the whole breastfeeding adventure, drinking from a bottle or training cup. Indeed, it was just her comfort but I needed my comfort by not having to worry if she was going to pull my business out in front of my father in law or in public places. So the first time she tried to pull me out of my clothes, I said enough and that was the end of it. No tantrums, no fuss. I only wished I had nursed my first longer…I was a milking cow with him! Lets see how this time around goes. Hopefully, at least a year 🙂

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